SACBC president, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Umtata. SACBC president, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Umtata.  

Southern African bishops hold plenary assembly in person

The bishops are meeting physically for the first time since 2020. The Synodal process is the leading theme of the meeting.

By Vatican News staff reporter.

The Southern African Catholic Bishops 'Conference (SACBC) is currently holding its plenary session, with members participating in it physically for the first time since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic 2 years ago. 

“What a moment to be here physically after a long time as a conference”, remarked Bishop João Rodrigues of Tzaneen on Tuesday, at the start of his homily during the opening Mass of the SACBC plenary at St. John Vianney Seminary in Pretoria.  

It was in the same venue that the bishops of Botswana, South Africa and eSwatini, who make up the SACBC, had last come together in person in January 2020 for their plenary meeting.   “Quite a pleasant return to this plenary session here at John Vianney Seminary!” Bishop Rodrigues said. 

In keeping with Covid-19 health protocols, the Mass of the Holy Spirit presided over by SACBC president, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Umtata, was not open to the public but was streamed live.   Bishop Rodrigues acknowledged the importance of the Holy Spirit in the Church’s journey through the process to the Synod to October 2023 in the Vatican.

Touching upon the theme of the Synod - communion, participation and mission – he said the prayer to the Holy Spirit is to ask Him to help participate in a way that they are able to receive the complete truth.  “We must have the whole truth and act according to that whole truth without partiality which leads us to make wrong decisions.”

Commenting on participation, Bishop Rodrigues said that they need to pray that the Spirit also help them listen to what others have to say.   

Referring to the social consequences caused by the pandemic crisis, Bishop Rodrigues recalled the mass looting in South Africa in July 2021.  He said he found it difficult to believe that such a thing could happen in the country so quickly.  

He pointed out that division and disorder do not arise from the differences between people, but from how these differences are used to provoke divisions. "The communion of God that unites us is more powerful than the differences that tempt us to division and disorder", he stressed.

SACBC president, Bishop Sipuka pointed out that the usual pastoral programmes of parishes were gradually resuming, with the faithful once again participating in Sunday Mass.

The plenary session that runs until 25 January, will elect a new SACBC president and 2 vice presidents. The process was scheduled for August 2021 but due to the inconvenience of voting online, the elections were postponed to this current plenary session.

21 January 2022, 16:51